This post aims to explain the different ways collaborative learning can be used in the classroom. We will be differentiating between cooperative and collaborative learning while also discussing the benefits of collaborative learning. Since learning is the way to growth, collaboration in the classroom will help students learn more efficiently and smartly. Thus, educational institutions are emphasizing collaboration more and more these days.
How can collaborative learning be used in the classroom?
Collaborative learning can be used in the following ways for the classroom scenario. Before that, let’s answer the question, “What is collaborative learning?” It is when two or more students discuss questions, complete tasks and collaborate together. The whole aim of collaborative learning is to help students learn on a deeper level, while solving complex problems together.
To bring collaborative learning to a classroom setting, we can use the various ways given below:
- · Encourage listening to each other
While we all listen, active listening is a different skill. Active listening happens when people listen to understand and empathize with the other person. Active listening also includes summarizing the conversation before moving on to the next topic. This ensures better understanding of the topic at hand, while also encouraging the speaker. This has both short-term and long-term advantages for all the parties involved in the conversation.
- · Make rules and emphasis them
Rules are not always present to take away the fun. In collaborative learning, rules become important as they ensure regular participation and efficient learning. The rules have to be set in such a way so that no one hogs the leadership role for too long. Every student thus gets a chance to lead and inspire others.
Rules also make sure that discussions are conducted in a clear manner so that everyone understands it better. Most importantly, conflict resolution tends to be better with a set of rules in place.
- · Group the students wisely
Every student will have their own personality type. And many personality traits don’t get along with each other. Sometimes the problem is not in getting along with each other but that some students get too well along with someone else. When this happens, the students find it difficult to collaborate with another person. In this situation, it becomes the instructor’s responsibility to group the students wisely.
While grouping the students, it is important to keep in mind the strengths and the weaknesses of the students themselves. It also is worthy to remember factors such as their sociability, their culture, their diversity, backgrounds and communication skills.
When it comes to size, an optimum size should be preferred. The group should not be too big or too small. If the group is too large, then there is a chance that not all students might be able to participate. But, if the group is too small, the discussion might not have a lot of variety. The same ideas might be passed around repeatedly and thus the members might lose their motivation.
- · Set clear goals for the group
As all smart groups, goal-setting is an important factor for a collaborative classroom as well. Goals should be specific and measurable in order for them to be effective. According to this research study, students study better under a teacher who has set clear goals for them in the classroom. Research also says that students tend to get distracted and playful when there are no clear set goals.
- · Assign a variety of tasks
If all groups are assigned the same task, it would lead to a monotonous atmosphere. Many ideas would tend to get repeated and eventually the students would lose their interest. However, if different groups get assigned different topics, learning would be a lot more effective. Since each group is performing a different task, the environment in the classroom would be a lot more lively and interesting.
Assigning different tasks also brings down unhealthy competition. Healthy competition is one where students will be encouraged to do more in a fun and effective manner, while also following rules. Since unhealthy competition brings down ethics and breaks principles, it should be avoided at all costs in the classroom.
- · Refrain from comparison
Everyone hates being compared to another, especially when it is in relation to success. While evaluating a group’s performance, it is important that we evaluate it according to their own merits. Rather than comparing their performance with another groups’, evaluate whether the team members have performed their individual roles effectively.
While rewarding, it is not just the points that matter. Every group when properly led would have achieved something. Giving points for different reasons such as best innovative idea, best teamwork or best presentation can make evaluations more fun and motivating.
- · Conduct fun activities
Learning should be coupled with fun. If students are not enjoying themselves with learning, they tend to associate learning with pain. Due to this, we see many adults who refrain from learning and development, leading to stagnant careers. We can bring fun into the classroom with games and other fun activities.
Since collaboration has the main focus, playing games that encourage this can be helpful. Playing games can also help students understand their roles better. In addition, they learn about different facets in other team members, helping them to coordinate better for future tasks.
- · Use real examples
Learning is nothing without its application. It is more effective when the students can see the concept being applied in real life. When the tasks assigned are more compatible with real life, the students find an instant connection. This also piques up their interest in the subject. It leads to better research and more practical ideas coming through from the group.
- · Keep demographics in mind
While aiming for collaborative learning, diversity should also be considered. Different members in a group would be bringing their own culture, experiences and knowledge to the table. Only when diversity is respected and embraced, this knowledge bank opens up. With a diverse group, their perspectives on important issues also change for the better.
- · Use technology in the classroom
Since remote-working has become a norm, so has remote-learning. Using collaborative technology, students from different areas in the globe can communicate and learn together. However, there is a downfall to this. Since the students are not interacting in person, the effectiveness of the socializing might be diminished.
This can be solved by playing strategic games for rapport and team-building. Giving time and space for students to get to know each other before the real learning starts is also a good idea.
- · Discourage group-think
We have heard group-think being used often in a corporate setting. But it also happens a lot in the classroom. More often than not, people in a group tend to decide on something for the sake of maintaining team-cohesion. But in a collaborative group, which is filled with mutual trust and respect, group-think should be discouraged. Instead, students should be encouraged to voice out their opinions and criticism regardless.
- · Encourage open communication
The more a team communicates, the more they collaborate. Of course, this only happens when the communication is open, honest and respectful. Encourage the students to be open in their communication towards each other. It is not just about learning and classroom issues, but even personal and emotional problems. This not only encourages socializing but also builds trust and respect.
Difference between cooperative vs collaborative learning
Though the two terms may look similar, they are quite different from each other. Cooperative learning is when a student puts their success ahead of the groups’. It is not that the student is not responsible for achieving the group goals, but more like he/she would prioritize their learning first. In cooperative learning, every student has a certain role to play with a certain responsibility, which doesn’t overlap with another.
It is different in collaborative learning where every student puts the group ahead of themselves. The principle here is to promote the group, through which each member also succeeds individually. Every student here is not only responsible for their own success but also that of others in the group.
Benefits of collaborative learning
Since we have discussed how to apply collaborative learning, here are a few benefits of implementing this wonderful principle in the classroom setting:
- · Collaborative learning improves knowledge sharing
Since the classroom is all about learning, it is nice to know that collaborative learning takes it to a whole new level altogether. Here, different experiences and skill-sets are shared in an open and positive environment. There is no risk of judgement or harsh criticism but only a strong sense of smart learning.
- · It improves communication and relationships
Building interactions and relationships among team-members is something that leaders struggle with. In collaborative learning, the instructor is only an observer while the team functions on its own under a strong set of rules. It creates a trusting environment where students are comfortable to say whatever they need. It also is a fantastic way to teach communication skills or improve existing ones.
- · It allows students to accept criticism
Collaborative learning also helps students to become more accepting of criticism. Since the learning is done in a trusting and respectful environment, arguments become great pools of knowledge. Every topic is discussed from all angles and pros and cons, instilling a stronger thirst for learning itself.
In this post we have explained the different ways collaborative learning can be used in the classroom. We have also differentiated between cooperative and collaborative learning, while mentioning the benefits of collaborative learning
Frequently asked questions:
How does collaborative learning help students?
Research has shown that collaborative learning can help students develop their critical thinking skills. It is not only about the learning process but also their psycho-social aspects. When classrooms used more collaborative learning, the students improved their self-confidence as well as their self-esteem. Collaborative learning also improves communication and interpersonal skills.
What are the advantages of using collaborative learning as a strategy in class?
Collaborative learning has been known to provide many different advantages at different levels. A few are discussed below:
- · Improved thinking skills
Students have been found to have improved on their critical thinking skills. Since collaborative learning brings many different perspectives into the picture, students tend to study and discuss a certain topic from all angles
- · Improves communication
It is not only the amount of communication but the quality of communication as well. Students tend to communicate with respect and integrity while negotiating differences effectively.
- · Increases cultural awareness
Collaborative learning encourages the understanding of diversity. Since different people from different backgrounds discuss their lives and experiences, learning and awareness also improves. This ultimately improves emotional intelligence, self-awareness and team-cohesion.
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